It was a muggy night in Washington, D.C., the night I saw my first Major League baseball game. It was 1962 and I was at a Christian camp outside Baltimore. My family was back in the states on leave from Taiwan.
It is because of Jennie Alderman, a China missionary of long ago, that I was able to go to the game. She told us before we left Taiwan that she had a nephew who played for the New York Yankees. She said give Bobby a call if you are in the area and send him her greetings.
Well, I did just that. I called up the hotel the Yankees stayed in and Yogi Berry answered. You know that voice anywhere. Yogi, who was 82 last May, gave the phone to the Yankee second baseman, Bobby Richardson. He was very gracious and told me to pick up tickets at the stadium for me and the boys.
One guy with us was from Greece and had no idea what was going on. When it came to baseball he was not the sharpest tool in the drawer. Between trying to explain to him what was going on and watching Mickey Mantle for the first time, it was one trying experience.
The year before, 1963, when the Yankees won the World Series, Bobby set a record that still stands today in Yankee-land. On June 24, 1962, he came to bat 11 times in a game with Detroit. That was a 22-inning game the Yankees won 9-7. That also is a Yankee team record for the longest game they ever played.
The Yankees won that night over the Washington Senators and both Richardson and Berra had an outstanding game. As we left the concourse, Bobby Richardson met us and gave me a ball signed by the 1962 team. (Years later I had the ball appraised and it was worth $500. Had it been the 1963 champion Yankees’ ball it would have been worth three or four times that!)
Richardson, now 72, went on from the Major Leagues to coach the University of South Carolina baseball team, taking them to the 1975 College World Series. They were the runner-up team. I read recently that while at USC he coached the sons of Whitey Ford and Phil Rizzuto. (For the younger generation, Ford was an outstanding pitcher and Rizzuto tops as a shortstop.)
Richardson brought the eulogy for Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle, Aug. 15, 1995. He spoke of how Mickey was always laughing and pulling tricks on team mates. He said about Mickey:
“But you know so many good things that Mickey did that people never heard about. I remember that he flew across the country for Fritz Packel when he was dying with cancer. In this church, right here, he did a benefit for Missions Outreach. … He came to my hometown on numerous occasions but in particular for the YMCA. We had a great banquet. And then we went out to the ballpark and Mickey (gave) a batting exhibition. Something you just can’t imagine him doing.”
This year the Yankees sure could use some of those old-timers. As I write this they are two games below .500 even with Roger Clemens.
Britt Towery, long-time baseball lover and Brownwood native, enjoys hearing from folks. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.